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The World(s) According To Ron

Wednesday, February 18

The drive to Chicago was the start of a long and exciting journey, culminating with the 1998 World DN Iceboat Championship in Turko, Finland. A long journey, but one that I was afraid would be over all too soon and I would be on my way home... for better or worse, with only my memories. I wanted to savor each and every moment. It was early yet, but the drive was long and I was already weary from the weeks... no, months, of preparation; and a lifetime of dreaming. It was difficult to stay awake but any attempt to rest would have been futile; anticipation bordering on anxiety would keep sleep at bay.

After arriving in Chicago, I met up with my uncle and traveling companion, Wendell Sherry, we put a few finishing touches on our equipment and took a limousine to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The desk clerk checked our extra packages on the KLM Flight with no additional charge. The 747 was very full and the air was charged with the excitement of travel; passengers returning home or just beginning their adventure, as we were. There would be no respite from the anxiety of our quest. Sensing our trepidation, the flight attendants attempted to ease our anxiety with additional portions of food and champagne, as well as light-hearted conversation.

As the miles and the minutes ticked off, I ticked off each item on my mental checklist again and again, making sure nothing was amiss. The closer we got to our destination, the more the weight of the Worlds grew upon my shoulders.

Thursday, February 19

We landed in Amsterdam and escaped customs without incident, but Jorg Bohn was no where to be found. After a very long hour, he arrived. Not realizing that we were to arrive on the 19th, he attempted to meet us at the airport on the 18th... our departure date. Not finding us at the airport, he used the day to pick up our boats and take them to his shop. He again made the three hour trek to the airport the next day to meet us. Definitely above and beyond the call of duty!

Jorg drove us back to his home town of Oldenburg and treated us to lunch at a very classy thatched roof restaurant serving a sumptuous meal of sausage and greens and, of course, beer. After eating, we toasted friendships of the past, present and future with a very special schnapps. The trip was off to a great start!

We returned, with Jorg, to his flat, to enjoy a much needed nap. We awoke to the clatter of Karina, James’ girl friend, as she and a friend attempted to struggle three huge plants into the flat. Each one was in a 3’ by 3’ planter... a major undertaking for anyone. Apparently, the bank where she works was going through some renovations and the plants were simply going to be thrown away. Jorg told me that the best thing to say to everyone was “moin moin” which means “nice nice.” Karina was obviously a tender-hearted soul, so I said “moin moin” to her and deemed her The Great Plant Saver. The phrase was difficult to translate, but once understood, it drew a hearty laugh.

We then went to Jorg Bohn’s shop to prepare for the next leg of our journey. At the shop we met Stefan Schweneker, a Tornado sailor who races with his wife. Stefan was a wonderful traveling companion; he was very handy and could fix almost anything. After loading our equipment, we went to a quaint pub to sample some German beer and some schnapps that tasted like Jägermeister. We discovered that veterinarians use this brew to relieve the sore muscles of farm animals. The label on the bottle explained that it was "also good for human consumption." We went back to Jorg’s flat to get some sleep in preparation for our 5:00 a.m. departure for Finland.

Friday, February 20

Jakob “Cuba” Schneider, arrived at Jorg Bohn’s flat at about 4:30 a.m., in his Volkswagen Bus. We hooked Stefan’s Tornado trailer to the bus, loaded up our gear and began one of the most arduous journeys of my life. We drove from Oldenburg, through Hamburg, to Puttgarden. We took the first of three ferry rides from there to Redby Havn, Denmark. We drove across Denmark to Helsinger and took a ferry to Halsingborg, Sweden and from there, we drove across Sweden to Stockholm and took yet another ferry to Turko, Finland. Turko was the closest city of any size to the site of the ‘98 Worlds, but it was still another hour and a half until we reached Lake Pyha Jarvi Sakyla, Finland... our final destination; a tedious 30 hours from Jorg Bohn’s flat in Oldenburg.

Jorg, Stefan, Cuba and Karina traveled in the bus. Wendell and I traveled in the Audi 5 cylinder diesel wagon. To make the trip a little easier on all of us, we frequently changed drivers and passengers between the bus and the wagon. While in the bus with Cuba, Karina and Stefan, I attempted to teach them some English slang. Karina was the toughest student because she was from East Germany and did not study English in school. When Karina and I were alone, we always found common words and hand gestures to communicate. However, when we were with the group, she preferred an interpreter.

The ferries were huge; with duty free shops, bars and restaurants on each. The most impressive and, by far, the largest was the one from Stockholm to Turko. It had several restaurants, casinos, arcades and four bars, each with a different type of music. Several passengers were locals who took the ferry, round trip, simply to take advantage of the tax fee bars.

The party started in the parking lot before we even boarded the ferry. The Poles had the vodka flowing early, while Chris Williams put studded tires on his car. We boarded the ferry and found our rooms which had four beds and, more importantly, showers. After cleaning up, we went to dinner in the buffet room and enjoyed "all you can eat" with every kind of salmon imaginable. Cuba, Jorg, Bernd, Bogdan and I enjoyed the trip well into the night.

Saturday, February 21

When the ferry arrived in Turko, we were all asleep in our beds and the maids had to warn us to get up or we would be on our way back to Stockholm. The directions from there were a little vague but we finally arrived at a restaurant that, fortunately, turned out to be the regatta headquarters. Lillan Evers had kindly reserved a cabin for us at the restaurant. It was very small, however, with four bunk beds and a kitchen table. The bathrooms had been closed for the winter so we would have had to use the rest rooms in the restaurant. So we decided to stay at a Bed and Breakfast about 20 miles away. The food there was delicious but it was very expensive; to buy a beer to drink with dinner cost $11 American. The rooms were much bigger, however, each with a kitchenette, television, shower and a sauna near by.

With the rooms secured, we decided to set up our boats, which were still packaged from the flight. Wendell and I decided to set up our boats in the shelter of the little cabins since it was damp and blowing 30 mph. Once the boats were unpacked and the steering installed, we tied them to the roof of the wagon and drove them to the ice.

Wendell & Ron try to take a spin.
At this point, Wendell decided to ride in the cockpit on top of the car with helmet and goggles on... this was a side of Wendell I had never seen. I honked the horn and the people in the parking lot at headquarters must have thought... there go those crazy Americans! I tried to do some doughnuts on the ice for the amusement of the others setting up their boats, but it was too windy for our little wagon to spin. We set up our boats without the masts and went back to the B&B to eat, sleep and check our runners.

Sunday, February 22

The next day was very windy in the morning, but the wind settled down to about 20 mph in the afternoon. I took time in the morning to set up the boat I built for Rudi Bauer. Rudi sailed the boat in Detroit before I shipped it. I was having trouble getting my main sheet to fit in my boom. When I went sailing later, I almost capsized and decided to sail the rest of the day with the main sheet out of the boom. After the practice sailing, Heiner Forstmann came to my rescue and let me borrow one of his booms which was the same as the one I had been using at home. I was still putting it together during the opening ceremonies.

Practice sailing was in wind of 20 mph with a temperature of 42F. We were sailing on about 18” of frozen slush. Practice sailing is usually interesting, to say the least, and sometimes even dangerous. I have seen many top-ranked sailors, including myself, get in a collision or break something the day before a big regatta. You can always count on some sandbagging. I thought my speed was good, but there were four or five boats that were much faster.

The opening ceremonies were, as always, very moving and I was honored to be chosen to raise the American flag. Soon, the speeches and the pageantry were concluded and Bart Reedijk declared the event open. Because of a technicality, I still did not know if I could use my ‘97 ranking or if I would have to compete in the mini-qualifiers. I chased down Bart Reedijk and Oa Sjoberg to get their final ruling on the issue. The decision was in my favor... I was able to sleep in the next morning instead of sailing in the mini-qualifiers. Life was good! It was time to put the covers on the boats, go home, eat, put the finishing touches on my runners and a black band on my boom. So we loaded up the runners and booms and headed back to the B&B for a good dinner.

I was eager to get back to the room and work on my equipment, so I asked Cuba if I could take the VW bus back and get started. When I got back to the room, I pulled my boom out of the back of the bus without realizing that I had pulled Wendell’s boom out slightly, as well. I shut the door and discovered, too late, that Wendell’s boom was out just far enough to shatter the back window of the bus. I heard that sound, I watched as the boom turned the window into a spider web of broken glass and my heart sank. I could not believe that this had happened the night before the Worlds.

When Jorg and Wendell returned, Jorg could tell that something was wrong. I was not my usual self... I felt terrible. I explained what had happened and Jorg just laughed and said “is that all?! I broke all the side windows last month moving a piano.” He said that Cuba would be happy to replace the window but that I would have to explain to him what happened. Cuba was very understanding and we duct taped the window inside and out. The rest of the group wrote a note on the window saying that they forgave me for breaking the window.

Later, when the window actually fell out, they changed their minds and the note to read "we don’t forgive you." I'm sure they were imagining driving back to Germany with no window... Brrrrr.

We were fortunate enough to discover that the man in the furniture repair shop next door had a similar van and a friend who would fix the window for a reasonable price. I gave the man a Detroit sweat shirt and a bottle of Kahlua for his help.

The next morning, our first stop was a local market, where I purchased all the fixings for a big batch of spaghetti. My companions watched with very questioning eyes as I gathered the ingredients for my signature spaghetti... anything goes! Next, it was on to the race site.

Monday, February 23

The morning of the first races was windy, warm and damp. We could no longer drive on the ice because a jam had let loose at the foot of the ramp. We had to lug our runners a long way. It was windy enough that I decided to line up my max length, 1/4" thick, winged inserts... my old faithfuls. In going out two-boat tuning before the start, Wendell was very fast and I was trying to keep him calm and thinking about consistent finishes. I was sailing a new hull, plank, mast, sail and boom; so I was not expecting to place, but I wanted to be as prepared and squeaky clean as possible.

The mini-qualifiers were over and the call was for the Gold Fleet to take the starting line. This meant the usual last minute running around checking stamps and stickers. There were two starting lines set up; one in front of the other, both with starting numbers. The first or down wind starting line was set up so the measurers could check stamps and stickers and the races could be run more efficiently.

I drew starting position 50 out of 60 in the Gold Fleet. I kept telling myself that this would soon be over and, win or lose, I’d better find a way to enjoy it. This train of thought seemed to chase away the butterflies. Off the starting line, I remember sailing high but not fast and Thomas Karlsson sailed over top of me like I was standing still. I tacked well short of layline and Thomas rolled over top of me again. I was trying to sail down in the cockpit but the soft conditions required a lot of body movement to reach top speed. I rounded the first weather mark, held my own down wind and got passed by more boats on the second beat and was in about tenth at the last leeward mark. Then the light went on and I decided to hike out a lot more. This made a huge difference in speed and only a slight loss in pointing. At the finish, I was very happy to have one race under my belt and to have taken fifth place. Thomas Karlsson won the first race with Daan Shutte in second, Bernd Zeiger in third and Tomas Lindgren in fourth.

They ran one other race and then lined up the Gold Fleet for a second race. In between races, Wendell sailed in to change some of his equipment. On the way back out, he spun out, capsized and cut his eye and forehead. Scott McDowell told me what happened and said Wendell was with the on-site doctor as I was on my way to the starting blocks. As we stood on the line, waiting, it began to rain. They called the race and, as I went back to the pits to pick up my runners, there was Wendell, picking up his runners with blood dripping from his goggles. Wendell had come to race and nothing was going to stop him! We quickly gathered our equipment so we could get in where it was warm and dry.

When we got back to the room, Wendell, Cuba, Stefan and Jorg headed for the sauna with multiple libations in hand. I stayed in the room with Karina to make the feast of spaghetti. A short time later, Jorg came back to the room wearing only a towel. Apparently, he got a little big for his britches and the others locked him out of the sauna. Unfortunately, the others had an alcohol induced memory lapse, forgot that they had locked him out, and poor Jorg had to walk back to the room where he hid from his tormentors to teach them a lesson. Jorg was so happy to see their concern, when they were unsure of his whereabouts, that he jumped out and laughed with all of them. The spaghetti feast went over well and everyone ate a lot in spite of the unusual ingredients and my questionable ability as a chef. The entire evening was so much fun!

As the night went on, I started giving lessons on stoning runners. After they saw the finish a stone could put on an edge, they did not know whether to thank me or curse me. Then the phone rang; it was Lillan, telling us that it was blowing 50 mph and boats were drifting out into the lake. When we got to the ice, we discovered that the three Thomas’ from Sweden had taken most of the masts down already. We were very grateful to Thomas Karlsson, Tomas Lindgren and Thomas Gross. Some of the sailors who had not removed their runners found their boats on the other side of the lake.

Tuesday, February 24

After the front went through, the wind dropped and so did the temperature. In the morning it was clear, cold (about 15F) and the wind was building. When I arrived on the ice, I was informed that they were lining up the Gold Fleet first. I got to the starting line as soon as possible. I was changing over to my race runners when one of my foam separators blew away. I ran and caught it but twisted my ankle in the process.

The cold temperatures made the ice much harder and faster. I set up the boat for top end speed and lowered the sail as much as possible. I lined up in starting block five with Bernd Zeiger to weather of me and Bogdan Kramer to leeward of me.

I sailed off to the right side and tacked early (or what I thought was early) but I got lifted up to the mark. Daan Shutte and Tomas Lindgren were in first and second. I was in third but closing on the leaders. There were three kilometers between the marks.

The course was long and extremely fast, more so than any other I have ever sailed. The ice was rough, like frozen slush, making it very easy to spin out. It was an incredible sensation to be going that fast and not worrying about tacking or jibing right away.

I jibed a little early down wind and had to do two more jibes at the leeward mark. On the second beat, I started to see the amazing speed this boat offered. Up wind I found I could sail with my feet on the number four bulkhead. The only time I had to hike out was at the start or out of tacks.

If there were any boats in front of me while I was going down wind, I would hike out to stay high and keep my air clear. Once in front, I would move all the way forward and I was faster and deeper down wind.

Most of the time, I was down in the cockpit keeping my toes pointed and trying to be as smooth as possible on every maneuver. I just kept telling myself that it was just a sail in the park.

The mast, plank and sail bent out so that I had a wide window to steer in without raising a runner. I just listened to the pitch of the apparent wind to decide if I was pointing high enough. The stiffened runners gave me great control over the rough ice at such high speeds.

By the second leeward mark, I was in first place and hitting the lay line so I only tacked and jibed once up wind and down wind. I just let the boat do the work. To just win a race in an event of this magnitude gave me a thrill that is unparalleled in my lifetime.

Anyone who wins a race and doesn’t just about bounce out of the boat with the thrill of hearing that gun must have something much different running through their veins than I do. Well, I didn’t let down the crowd. I came across the finish line just a hootin’ and a hollerin’! What an awesome combination of sensations.Daan Shutte finished second again and was the new regatta leader. Piotr Burczynski was third, Karol Jablonski was fourth and Vaiko Vooremaa was fifth.

In the third race, I started in the number one position. The pressure was enormous as my boat was scrutinized by sailors and spectators. I tried to stay calm and speak to the other competitors to find out if anyone found any bad conditions. I got a good start but Piotr Burczynski, who started off the number three block, sailed with me out to the right side and was able to tack and cross me.

At the weather mark, Thomas Karlsson had a big lead and I was in about fourth. At the leeward mark, I had fought back to third and then sailed over the second place boat early on the second beat. Thomas Karlsson was still well in the lead, sailing off to the right side. When Thomas tacked, I tacked to leeward of him and was able to sail a little higher and a little faster into the weather mark.

After rounding the weather mark, I noticed Andre Baby and another skipper stopped into the wind and standing next to their boats, little more than 100 yards ahead of me. While trying to avoid them, I lost control and broached out myself; Thomas and Piotr both passed me. I was able to correct the problem and pass Piotr again by the leeward mark. Thomas, however, had jumped out to a good lead.

It was time to mentally settle down, go after him and pass him, as I had on the second beat. I tacked to leeward of Thomas and got by him just before the weather mark. Niel Marsden shot some great pictures of Thomas and me in the heat of the battle.

I finished in first place; excited and exhausted. Thomas Karlsson was second, Piotr Burczynski was third, Bernd Zeiger was fourth, Mati Hool was fifth and Daan Schutte was sixth. This race put me in the lead for the first time in the regatta.

The fourth race was set up much the same, with Piotr Burczynski starting to leeward of me. This time he stayed with me but was unable to tack and cross. At the weather mark, I again found myself in third place with Bernd Zeiger in first and Thomas Karlsson in second. I passed Thomas Karlsson down wind and Bernd was in first at the leeward mark.

Fine, I thought to myself, I will just slide down in the cockpit, go into point mode and pass him to weather. Bernd looked back, saw what I intended to do, and decided to pinch me off. I sailed up close to him and laid off quickly to sail through to leeward of him. Bernd anticipated this move and laid off to give me as much bad air as possible. Our masts were bent out to the max but I was able to sail through him to leeward. After I sailed through him, I went into point mode and sailed away.

After this maneuver, I increased my lead. On the last down wind leg, I ran over a 1" x 2" x 30’ long wood stick. I was sure it had damaged my runners but, upon inspection, they seemed fine.

At the end of the fourth race, I was first, Piotr Burczynski was second, Thomas Lindgren was third, Daan Schutte was fourth and Bernd Zeiger was fifth. Before the start of the fifth race, I was relaxed and feeling good.

Karina had done her usual good deed, by ice skating out with our sandwiches and hot tea. I got the best start of the regatta in the fifth race and, for the first time, led at the first weather mark. I extended my lead to 3/4 of a mile by the end.

I remember sailing on the last tack toward the finish line, at about a bazillion miles an hour, thinking to myself, that the only way I could mess this up would be to spin out and break something, so I told myself to ease the sheet. No way... I could not do it! Three times, I told myself to ease, but it was just too much fun going that fast! I rode a tall hike across the finish line and did a dance that would have brought tears to my sisters’ eyes if they had been there.

The rush of enthusiasm I had was felt first by Jorg Bohn, who I tackled and rolled around on the ice with like a couple of playful bears. We started adding up the points and, in a six race series with a throw-out, I did not have to sail the last race. I let several people take my boat for a ride and a Swedish coach let me call my wife from the ice.

When I told my wife the news, all I could hear was screaming in the background. For me, it doesn't’t get any better than this!... YET!

Behind me, there was quite a battle going on for second place. Thomas Karlsson was behind Tomas Lindgren and decided to take a chance and tack away. This maneuver cost him four positions.

In the end of the fifth race, I had clinched first place, Tomas Lindgren was second, Bernd Zeiger was third, Piotr Burczynski was fourth and Daan Schutte was fifth. The standings, after five races with a throw-out, showed that second place was up for grabs, next was Piotr Burczynski with 12 points, Daan Schutte with 13 points, Bernd Zeiger with 15 points, Thomas Karlsson with 17 points and Tomas Lindgren with 19 points.

I decided not to race the final race, mostly because I did not want to be the one who helped decide who would be second. When I got to shore, I took off my track shoes and my left ankle began to swell; I could hardly walk. Dr. Axel Forstmann taped up my ankle and it felt much better. Again we went to have a drink with the Swedish team but the party ended early with one more big race to go.

Wednesday, February 25

The following morning was cold and windy. The temperature was about 10F and the wind was blowing over 20 mph. On the first Gold Fleet leeward mark rounding, Piotr Burczynski had a huge lead, followed by Daan Schutte and the Swedish team. The wind shifted and Piotr seemed to lose track of where the weather mark was.

In the end, first place went to Thomas Karlsson, Tomas Lindgren was second, Daan Schutte was third, Piotr Burczynski was fourth and Mati Hool was fifth. These finishes created a tie between Daan Schutte and Piotr Burczynski with 16 points each. When the tie was broken, Daan Schutte was second and Piotr Burczynski, the 1979 World Champion, was third.

Daan Schutte is a skilled craftsman, who built and tuned his entire package; sail, hull, runners, mast, plank and boom. Daan’s efforts are truly commendable and he is another sailor to watch for in future regattas.

Thomas Karlsson was fourth with 18 points, Tomas Lindgren was fifth with 21 points, Bernd Zeiger dropped from fourth to sixth place because of his tenth place finish in the last race, he ended up with 23 points. Vaiko Vooremaa finished consistently to end up seventh with 33 points.

I can still remember eating chocolate and drinking Coke with Vaiko when we were 19 years old in Wittensee. Mati Hool was eighth with 38 points. Ninth place went to the ‘92 and ‘95-’97 World Champion, Karol Jablonski with 39 points. Rounding off the top ten was Tomasz Zakezowski with 53 points. Eleventh place, also winning first as a junior, was 16 year old Michal Burczynski with 60 points. Michal’s best finish was sixth place in the second race. Michal, Piotr’s son, was unbeatable in lighter winds this season. Look out for him in the future. Twelfth place was Axel Forstmann with 62 points, thirteenth place went to Gunars Rozenbergs with 84 points, fourteenth place went to 1994 World Champion, Andreas Bock with 92 points. Fifteenth place went to the 1978 World Champion, Bogdan Kramer with 93 points. This was definitely a fleet deep with experience.

Wednesday, February 25 - The Awards Party

The awards party consisted of a delicious Finnish feast of beef, salmon, herring and several different vegetables and salads. The alcohol and the conversation were both flowing freely. It was an extraordinary time of sharing new and old memories with new and old friends.

Then the awards ceremony began. I remember the moment when Bart Reedijk presented me with the elusive Gold Cup for the first time in fourteen World Championship attempts. I was ecstatic and yet relieved that my quest was over and that I had emerged victorious.

Of course, the obligatory barrage of photos followed. Standing amongst seven former World Champions, with the cup in my hands, was a humbling and awesome experience which gave me chills... or perhaps it was the champagne that Karol Jablonski and Jeff Kent dumped over my head at just that moment!

Dripping with the sweet champagne of victory, I filled the cup with more champagne and personally took it to each table. I wanted everyone to have a chance to drink from the cup, to share in my victory... I wanted to thank each one for his or her role in my success and, ultimately, in the success of the sport of ice boating. The celebration ended all too soon for the European Championship was to begin the next day.

Thursday, February 26 - The European Championship

The European Championship races were sailed in very difficult conditions. The temperature on the first day was 45F which created lots of puddles and slush, and it was blowing 25 mph. I spun out and capsized at the leeward mark. I was sent skidding across the ice, through the slush and puddles and got up thoroughly soaked, with slush dripping out of my wet suit. I tried to continue, but the tiller was broken and the steering rod was bent, making it impossible to continue.

The next day, it was cold and they raced in about 18 mph winds, through 1/4” of shell ice over standing water. I tried sailing and my side runners would break through forcing the boat to go straight. I chose not to continue racing in the European Championship; opting, instead, to get ready for the long journey home. The European Championship was won by Thomas Karlsson for the third year in a row. The last sailor to earn this distinction was Endel Vooremaa in 1971, ‘72 & ‘73. Congratulations to Thomas who is long overdue for a World Championship Victory.

Going Home

The trip home was slightly slower paced. I slept on the ferry, the deep and peaceful sleep of a goal attained. We decided to take in a few sights on the way to Stockholm and we visited a castle that overlooked a lake. We drove through Copenhagen at night; it was a beautiful sight with all the lights of the city glowing in the dark.

We arrived in Oldenburg late that night and dropped off the equipment at Jorg Bohn’s shop. The next morning, we went to the BMS Sailing Wear office in Hamburg. It was quite a challenge trying to find the office in the midst of such a large and busy city. Jorg’s driving made this adventure quite entertaining. The BMS group gave me a duffel bag full of BMS wearables to take home.

After leaving BMS, we drove to Steinhude, Germany, where we met up with Cuba. We visited several boat building yards and stopped at a shop where DN masts were made. They would not let us see their mast building equipment but we did get to see the $15,000 mast deflection testing fixture.

Next, we went back to the yacht club to have dinner with Cuba and his wife and son. I was trying to teach his son to juggle. The next day, we drove to the Amsterdam airport for the flight back to Chicago.

The desk clerk was much less accommodating than his counterpart on the trip to Europe. We had far less equipment to check, yet he seemed to charge us just as much as he could. Jorg discretely showed the clerk his commercial pilot’s license, but to no avail.

We flew to Chicago without incident... it was good to be back in the United States. Because it was late and we were both tired, Uncle Wendell offered me a place to stay for the night. I was tempted, but the desire to get home to my wife and children was stronger.

So I set out on the five hour journey, made much longer by a treacherous ice storm which had the van skidding sideways down the freeway not once, but twice. I arrived home, safely, at about 4 a.m. There was a huge congratulatory banner, lovingly created by my wife and children, which hung the length of the door and welcomed me home. I opened the door to find red, white and blue balloons and red, white and blue streamers draped over the entire living room. The children, of course, were asleep... I would have to wait a few more hours to catch up on all the hugs I had been missing.

My wife, however, was waiting for me with love and a warm embrace to welcome me home. My long journey was over and it was good to be home! The celebration, however, was far from over! My wife had made all the arrangements for a welcome home party, the very next night. All my closest friends and family gathered in our home to welcome me and toast my success. We celebrated well into the night!

Celebrating the victory.
But the celebration was not yet over. My sisters, my wife and Michelle Smith planned a party for Greg Smith, our newly crowned North American Champion, and myself to take place at Total Sports. On Saturday, March 14, over 150 people showed up to help us celebrate.

Some of those attending included Danny Connell and Bill Condon from New Jersey, Aaron Stange from Toledo, Skip Boston, Art Teutsch and a whole entourage from Kalamazoo. We drank Jaegermeister and Rumplemans from the cup all night long. It was a great time! You can always tell how much fun you have had, by the way you feel the next day... the next day was rough!

Thank you to everyone who showed up!

The Equipment

The equipment I used was standard Composite Concepts issue:

• Standard Clone hull

• Standard plank for 180 lbs.

• Stiff Tip Whip mast

• Heiner Forstmann boom

• All Sarns hardware

• Harken blocks

• Doyle Boston Speed Sail

• 36”, 440C Insert runners

The hull and plank were built for Rudi Bauer. Rudi said I could use his boat at the Worlds because he would not be competing in the regatta. The only equipment on the boat I had ever sailed before were my runners.

My side runners were 1/4" thick, 36" long, 440C, winged, insert runners. My front runner was a 3/16" thick, 36" long, 440C, prepreg side, insert runner. I sailed my plank 3" forward, my mast step was 1" forward, the sail was as low as it would go.

This was the second World Championship in a row, in which I sailed side stays with no adjusters. I simply adjusted the mast step and headstay together. In top end conditions, the mast step comes back and the headstay gets lengthened. This effectively rakes the mast forward to keep the side stays tight. Then you just lower the sail and presto, you’re set up for heavy air. Andreas Bock said the lack of side stay adjusters was arrogant.

The Doyle Boston Speed Sail was developed at the end of the 1996-97 season to complement the Whip and help sailors reach a higher top end speed.

I am a firm believer in not changing the boat when it is working well. It always makes me laugh when I see sailors making radical tuning changes when their boat is already fast. It seems to me, that if you’re smooth in the boat through your tacks, jibes and mark roundings, and you hit the lay lines just right, you will be much further ahead than any pin of side rake will get you.

Those Who Made it Possible

I would like to thank the following people for their very important roles in making my success in sailing, and in life, possible:

• My Mom, who paid for my first trip to Europe in 1982 when we sailed in Wittensee, Germany. My Mom passed away, February 19, 1982, shortly after I returned home.

• My Dad, who got me started in racing iceboats and sailboats in 1971, when I was nine years old.

• My wife, Renee and my children, Caroline, Trevor and Griffin, who were 4, 2 and six months at the time. Thank you for giving me the love, support and time to prepare for and make the trip, not to mention a warm welcome home and a fabulous celebration.

• My sisters, Jane, Debbie and Loretta, who’s diligence in running races on the local and national level has raised the level of skill all over the world.

• My co-workers at Composite Concepts, including my brother Kevin, Diana and Erick, who held down the fort without missing a beat and completed a 60’ carbon camera arm in my absence.

• My home town tuning partners, including Chip Cartwright, Paul Goodwin, John Harper, Chris Clark, Brian Brieden, Greg Smith, Harry Defer and, most of all, my mentor, Jan Gougeon. We have all pushed each other to a higher level of speed in a wide range of conditions.

• Thanks to Skip and Mike Boston, Don Nylon and the whole Boston team for such great support in the area of sails.

• My traveling partners, Jakob Snider, Stefan Schweneker, Jorg Bohn, Katrina and my Uncle Wendell. We all had an incredible time traveling and racing together. This was one trip I am sure to never forget. If it wasn’t for the calls from my Uncle Wendell and Jorg Bohn offering help, support and encouragement; and for Rudi Bauer’s generous offer to use his boat, I would never have made the trip.

• All iceboaters, from around the world, who have made the competition and the sport such a challenging and rewarding experience.

Thank you all very much!